Book: Good Omens
My Rating: 2/5 Stars
You know when all of your friends talk something up and then when you finally experience it, the reality is so much different than what had been conveyed that it kind of ruins it? That pretty much sums up my experience with Good Omens, an apocalyptic fiction novel by British authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. All of the praise on the inside cover hails this as supremely funny – the same praise my friends gave it – but for me it mostly fell flat. I might have liked it more if I didn’t go in with such high expectations, but here we are nonetheless.
Good Omens is a novel about the apocalypse, the battle between Heaven and Hell brought on by the birth of the Anti-Christ. The list of characters is incredibly long, but the novel is introduced as a story through the eyes of a demon and angel on Earth, Crowley and Aziraphale. Here the story shined, as the interactions between these two were the high points of the book. The humor they brought to the story was mostly the only humor I found in the entire novel, but it wasn’t enough to save an altogether dry story. The premise is essentially that these two realize they don’t want the world to end, so they begin to work against the mechanisms of the higher powers they serve to avoid the end of times. As they attempt this, many other characters are introduced; there are demons, angels, witch hunters, witches and many normal humans that make up the vast cast of this novel. One of my biggest complaints is that the authors did a poor job introducing each character. There was never any segue into a new POV and I had to eventually make a quick list of characters to keep things straight. Some important characters are brought up early on and then we don’t see them again until more than halfway through the novel. This made the read a bit confusing at times. I also strongly disliked the young Anti-Christ and his posy. Every time the novel switched to their part of the story I was yawning and had to force myself to keep reading. Overall, I found most of the characters to be very lackluster and boring.
Another big problem I had from this book was the pacing. When I started it, I was on 100% on board. I loved the banter between Aziraphale and Crowley as they participated in the bible story of Adam and Eve. After this opening scene, though, things really started to slow down and from here until the end of the book there were only a handful of sections that kept me fully engaged – mostly just the ones where Aziraphale and Crowley were the center pieces. One of my favorites was when they both got drunk and fell into deep conversation in the back of Aziraphale’s bookstore. Most of the book, though, was a bit of a slog for me. The first fifth of the novel covers events that took place years ago and then the rest covers events over the course of five days. Almost half of the entire novel covers a single day in time, but because of the vast amount of characters and threads that had to come together and be resolved, it took forever to get to the point. Overall, there were a couple sections that kept me engaged, but for the most part, reading this book was a chore.
Aside from all that I didn’t like about this book, there was some good things to find here. The premise was interesting and I think the story had a lot to say about the nature of good and evil. Like I mentioned before, the interactions between Crowley and Aziraphale were witty and funny and their characters were the saving grace of the book. The four horsemen of the apocalypse was another group of characters I found interesting and the events they were involved in were usually fairly engaging. There is a scene later in the novel where the four horsemen meet a group of Hell’s Angels and the two groups team up and ride together – this was hilarious and I wish there had been more humor like this. Lastly, I can appreciate the themes being touched upon in the novel – fighting against fate, good vs. evil and the innocence of childhood. Oh, and it was interesting how often the authors were able to work the word “ineffable” into a sentence. I didn’t know what it meant when I started the book, so at least I learned one thing from giving it a try.
Overall, Good Omens was a dud for me. I have struck out a couple times this year with Neil Gaiman, which is a shame because I really enjoyed American Gods and his retelling of old stories in Norse Mythology. Perhaps it’s time to give this author a break and return later. I haven’t given up, though, because I still hear so many good things from people I know. If you enjoy all of Gaiman’s novels I would assume you will enjoy this (I have never read anything else by Terry Pratchett so I can’t speak to that side of things). Perhaps I would have liked this more if I were British or had a stronger background in Christian teachings. Either way, this is not one I will be coming back to.